When Canadian archivists were developing Rules for Archival Description we
wanted to make clear the distinction between the physical unit and the
intellectual unit of description. This is similar to the distinction that
Michael Fox made yesterday I think. In RAD, the glossary defines file and
folder as follows:
File: (1) a level of description. (2) An organizaed unit of
DOCUMENTS, usually within a SERIES, brought together because they relate
to the same subject, activity, or transacation. (Dossier)
Folder: A folded sheet of cardboard or heavy paper serving as a
cover for a set of related (DOCUMENTS). (Chemise)
In matters relating to description such concepts are "deceptively"
simple. They usually are not simple. I think that it is very important,
for the purposes of description, to distinguish between the intellectual
unit and the physical unit, and I am pleased that EAD makes provision for
On Tue, 11 Mar 1997, Kate Bowers wrote:
> The discussion of file v. folder was making me a bit confused (and giving me
> horrendous thoughts about whether or not I'd marked up my finding aids
> correctly), so I took a look in _A glossary for archivists, manuscript
> curators, and records managers_ (SAA's Archival fundamentals series) and
> found the following:
> 1. An organized unit (folder, volume, etc.) of DOCUMENTS grouped
> together either for current use or in the process of archival ARRANGEMENT.
> 2. A series of FILES.
> 3. In DATA PROCESSING, two or more RECORDS of identical layout treated
> as a unit....
> 4. Storage equipment, such as a filing cabinet.
> A folded sheet of cardboard or heavy PAPER serving as a container
> for a number of DOCUMENTS.
> Indeed, it appears from this (if one accepts the definitions) that one
> merely has to decide if a folder is indeed being used as a file. Why does
> this sound too easy? Is the discussion (and my confusion) merely occasioned
> by the tendency to use the word "folder" instead of the more inclusive term
> "file" (which is very natural in a setting where all or most of your files
> are contained in folders)? I also took a look at the LC web pages on EAD,
> but did not see anything like a glossary that would help explain any other
> meaning for FILE.
> I'd love to hear opinions and alternate definitions.
> Kate Bowers
> Assistant Curator for
> Bibliographic Control and Special Media
> Harvard University Archives
> Cambridge, MA 02138
> voice: (617) 495-2461
> fax: (617) 495-8011
> email: [log in to unmask]
Kent M. Haworth (416) 736-5442
University Archivist fax: (416) 736-5451
& Head, Special Collections
ASC home page: http://www.library.yorku.ca/depts/asc/archives.htm
"The very circumstance that archival documents were created for legal or
administrative purposes and not cultural purposes gives them a special
cultural value." Elio Lodolini, 1989